Given the often raucous reputation of Congress, it may seem unlikely that one of its members regularly partakes in the silent practice of meditation. But for years Tim Ryan, U.S. Representative from a district southeast of Cleveland, has routinely sat in quiet contemplation. The advantages of learning meditation skills are so positive, he says, that schoolchildren should be introduced to the basics. We visited Congressman Ryan on Capitol Hill for a provocative discussion of ways someone with a hectic job manages stress, and how simple skills of relaxation and focusing can help the emotional and academic development of young people.
A mindfulness practice helps cultivate your attention span, instills mental discipline, moves your brain in the direction of more empathy, better at solving problems?All of these positive benefits come from the mindfulness practice, and then identifying your own emotions, and then how you connect with other people. This is what underlies, or should underlie all of the [school prevention] programs, whether it?s bullying, drugs, and alcohol, teenage pregnancy. Like what?s underneath all of that? And what?s underneath all of that is a kid that?s not feeling good about themselves, for some reason, not making good decisions, easily influenced by peers. I think the social and emotional learning, and the mindfulness practices take us to a deeper level of where the problems really are. And, quite frankly, I think Americans are ready for that.”
—U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), author of A Mindful Nation